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A winning attitude

For softball player Britta Giddens, winning is business as usual.

Before earning a scholarship to play softball for USF, Giddens helped build Bartow High School into one of the premier softball schools in the country.

“Yeah, I did (get used to winning),” Giddens said. “It basically became natural. I mean, we won four state championships in a row and we had a 65-game winning streak at one point, so, you know, (winning) became kind of expected.”

So with the Bulls already having clinched a spot in the Big East Tournament with 41 wins this season and looking for their fifth NCAA berth in six years, Giddens will be playing postseason softball for the fifth consecutive year.

When her senior year in high school came around, Giddens knew she wanted to play softball in college, and after receiving scholarship offers, she narrowed her choice down to two schools.

“It was basically my choice between LSU and (USF), but USF was my first choice,” said Giddens, who is fourth on the team in doubles with nine. “One (reason is because) it was close to home, and another reason was because of (coach) Ken (Eriksen). I really liked the program. I heard a lot of good things because one of my softball coaches is good friends with Ken, and he would always talk me up about USF.”

Eriksen saw the talent Giddens possessed right away and, after hearing her decision to attend USF, hoped the young player could make a difference immediately.

“We were actually hoping that she was going to make an impact when we recruited her,” Eriksen said. “I thought she was a heck of a ball player in summer leagues and in high school, and she had great instincts for the game – probably some of the better instincts we’ve ever had.”

While Eriksen had plans for Giddens right away, the freshman knew she had a lot of work ahead of her.

“I didn’t (expect to start),” Giddens said. “I wanted to – I mean, you always want to start – but I wasn’t expecting to. I expected to work hard because (college softball) isn’t the same as high school.”

Giddens’ hard work paid off. The former shortstop took advantage of fall practices, and by the time her first collegiate season started in the spring, Giddens had earned the position of starting second baseman.

“I was nervous,” Giddens said about starting her first game in college. “Very nervous, actually.”

Giddens went 0-for-3 in her first collegiate game, but it didn’t take her long to get used to the new surroundings and get back to playing softball. She scored the first run of her collegiate career against Jacksonville in the second game of the season and recorded her first RBI on a two-run double against Western Kentucky in the third game.

As Giddens continued to improve, Eriksen eventually made the decision to give the freshman a more prominent role on the team.

“I brought her into the office one day and said, ‘Look, kid, this is the way it’s going to be: You’re batting leadoff and playing second base. What do you think?'” Eriksen said. “She didn’t bat an eye and said, ‘When do I start?’ It was great to see her grab the bull by the horns.”

The freshman’s solid play and determination have also been noticed by the upperclassmen on the team.

“Britta’s like a little bulldog,” senior Christie Chapman said. “I don’t think she’ll let herself fail. She has to win; you can just see it in her.”

Chapman, who plays Giddens’ former position of shortstop for the Bulls, admits that she was slightly concerned when the freshman began starting at second base.

“She’s a freshman, you know? So at first it was kind of like, ‘Uhhh, I don’t know,’ but she has totally stepped up, and I feel confident with her over there. Turning double plays with her is really fun.”

Senior right fielder Tiffany Stewart also noticed the impact Giddens has made on the Bulls this season.

“I think Britta is a great asset to this team,” Stewart said. “I mean, coming in as a freshman and starting in the leadoff spot for us is a lot of pressure, and I don’t think a lot of people could handle that. But Britta has come in, and it’s just been second nature for her.”

Giddens’ roommate and fellow freshman starter Ashley Bullion agrees that the second baseman’s play this year hasn’t looked like that of a freshman.

“She came in as a freshman, but she didn’t act like a freshman,” Bullion said. “She pretty much acts like she owns the field when she’s out there, and that’s what you have to do.”

With Giddens, Eriksen’s policy of recruiting proven winners has paid off again, and he looks forward to watching her progress over the rest of her collegiate career.

“I think if you take a look at our roster, most of the kids came from winning-type programs, and I like to think that we’ll continue to recruit that way,” Eriksen said. “Winning breeds winning, and that type of attitude shows a lot of leadership. For (Giddens) to step up as a freshman and do the things that she’s done proves that we were right (in recruiting her). So we just hope that she continues to improve every single day, and I look forward to her doing that.”

STATS.

1- Giddens’ high school softball team’s ranking by USA Today in 2003, her sophomore season.

65- Win streak Giddens’ high school softball team compiled over a two-year span.

3- Consecutive years Giddens was named first team all-state shortstop, though now plays second base.